When the Austin Healey 3000 was discontinued, Kjell Qvale was disappointed. The entrepreneurial Californian had built up a massive business importing and selling British and European performance cars in the USA. As such he was an influential player, managing to persuade Donald Healey and Jensen Motors to design and build a sports car to fill the hole left by the late, lamented 3000.
The project was actioned and the result appeared in 1972. The Jensen-Healey was a traditional roadster, created with sourced components like running gear from the Vauxhall Firenza, Sunbeam Rapier transmission and front brakes that originated from the truly awful Morris Marina. The suspension was simple but effective — live rear axle with coils and trailing arms coupled with double wishbone and coil springs at the front. The car had drum brakes at the rear and discs up front. Interiors were functional.
After experimenting with various different engines, it was decided that the Jensen-Healey should use the brand-new Lotus 907, a DOHC 16-valve all-alloy motor. This was teamed with a four- or five-speed manual gearbox to deliver impressive performance —though as always the package had to be detuned to meet US emission control regulations. It was also an American requirement that unattractive rubber bumpers should be fitted (from 1974).
Kjell Qvale did his part, ensuring that the sporty Jensen-Healey sold well in the States. But all was not well on the home front. The 1973 oil crisis had virtually killed off the thirsty Jensen Interceptor, and the company scrambled to fill the void by developing the Jensen GT, a sporting estate-car version of the roadster. This was a terrific little speedster, but only a few hundred were made before Jensen folded in 1976, leaving behind a legacy of around 10,000 Jensen-Healey models to tempt future sports car collectors.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1972 (until 1976)
1,973 CC DOHC Straight Four
Top speed of 119 mph (192 km/h);0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.8 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
A factory-sponsored Jensen-Healey team went sports car racing in America during 1973 and 1974, winning the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) D Production Championship in both years. But this commendable effort ended in 1975 ahead of Jensen Motors’ collapse.